Honor your ancestors by respecting your elders


It’s early Tuesday morning and your shift begins in less than an hour. You’ve slept through your alarm clock, you’re already late and it’s raining at the bus stop. There’s only one seat left and it’s between you and a much older woman.

Common sense says the most logical and ethical decision would be to stand and let the older woman have a seat. However, knowing the mindset of my generation, there are many who would argue, “Why are seniors automatically entitled respect? Especially if I don’t know them.”

This isn’t as uncommon as you’d think, and with this new world order we live under, I wouldn’t be surprised if it became the norm.

Two rules

When I was a child growing up, there were two main rules my mother instilled in me: stay out of grown folks’ business, and respect your elders – all of them. The ones you see at school; the ones you see at church; even the ones you see intoxicated at 10 a.m. As the pillar of the family and the village, we depend on our elders for wisdom and love that can’t be bought.

There’s a certain level of humility and dignity that comes with being raised or being heavily groomed by your grandparents or anyone of a particular age. Someone from a previous generation who has been through the pain, the strife and the beauty of life and can now enjoy their golden years in peace. Our elderly are our mighty ancestors and should never be disrespected.

Recently, a clip of legendary poet and icon Maya Angelou sparked controversy for her response to a fan addressing her by her first name. “I’ve lived so long and tried so hard for a young woman like you, or any other, has no license to come up to me and call me by my first name,” she explained. This quote started a media debate about whether elders were entitled to respect regardless.

Unthinkable idea

The mere idea that this was up for a debate would make my grandma shake her head. If I would’ve walked up to one of my teachers or neighbors and referred to them by first name, I probably would’ve gotten knocked into next week. Senior citizens and elderly adults should always be referred to by their last name with a Mrs. or Mr. in front. 

We’re coming up in a time where social media and the Internet has warped our perception of reality and what is respectful. “Yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir, no sir,” was how you addressed an adult coming up.

Nowadays we say things like, “Respect is due to a dog,” insinuating that one must earn your respect in order to give them yours. That way of thinking is immature and self-destructive. There are certain people who are entitled to a respect and care: veterans, disabled citizens and the elderly.

A few years back during Hurricane Harvey, the Windsor Apartments on Maley Avenue in Daytona Beach were dealing with a number of crises. Their power had completely gone out, causing hearing aids, oxygen tanks, air conditioners and refrigerators to stop working. Some people were starving in 90-degree weather. Those confined to wheelchairs weren’t able to use the elevators.

I immediately jumped on social media and asked for food and clothes donations. Before I knew it, there were hundreds of people bringing food home-made with love, ice in coolers, jugs of water and even books for the residents. The word of mouth was so heavy that Channel 13 News came out and gave us a hand. Many questioned why I would do all that. There are some duties you do simply because you’re here on this Earth.

Show respect daily

Never forget to honor your ancestors and respect your elders every day. Hold the door open, help them move furniture, become that companion that so many are longing for. And when you see your great-grandma, or Great-Uncle Pete this Sunday for Easter, why not fix their plate, give them a cold Pepsi, listen to them talk and admire them?

So much history and culture is passed down through our elders. We must cherish them for who they truly are: the arch of the family, the backbone of life and the architects of the village. Enjoy your family this weekend. Kids, “Stay out of grown folks’ business and respect your elders.”

Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc. 


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